Trends in Public Opinion: A Compendium of Survey Data

By Richard G. Niemi; John Mueller et al. | Go to book overview

3
Taxation and Spending

Americans have been asked quite regularly since 1947 whether they consider their federal taxes to be too low, and it will come as no surprise to discover that just as regularly they have been strongly inclined to think not (Table 3.1). However, there has been some fluctuation in the proportions that believe their taxes to be "too high" and "about right."

Protest against high taxes generally rose in the immediate postwar period, reaching a peak in 1952 and 1953 during the Korean War and, perhaps not coincidentally, at a time when Republicans were returned to the White House. Thereafter people registered more contentment with their tax burden, and the percentages holding taxes to be too high dipped during the early 1960s, when the Kennedy administration was trying with some difficulty to get a tax cut bill accepted. The percentage feeling taxes were too high then rose, reaching high levels again by 1969. It held at that level until the early 1980s and has declined markedly since. These fluctuations may have been influenced not only by the exact levels of federal spending and tax rates, but also by inflation and by feelings about the distribution of the tax load ( Ladd, et al, 1979). when prices are rising painfully, people seek relief, and the idea of cutting taxes gains new appeal ( Hansen, 1983).

Data on the public's spending priorities during the period since 1971 are presented in Tables 3.2-3.28. As the percentage of people insisting that their federal taxes are too high has declined in the 1980s, so the percentage favoring expanded expenditures has increased somewhat--despite very substantial White House rhetoric to the contrary. However, the public is selective about where the spending increases should go.

Support for increased spending for space exploration stood at very low levels in the years after the Americans finally made it to the moon, but rose later (3.2, 3.3).

-73-

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